One of my favorite movies is As Good As It Gets, the 1997 romantic comedy/drama with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. It’s a great movie for a lot of reasons, and every time I watch it I notice something else fantastic about it. But one part that always stuck with me is the scene where Jack’s character, having thoroughly pissed off Helen Hunt on yet another occasion, is ordered by Hunt to pay her a compliment to keep her from walking out on him. Flustered and desperate, Jack launches into a somewhat rambling story about how, after she told him off a few nights prior, he finally listened his doctor’s orders and began taking some anti-depressants to help curtail his more unpleasant behaviors. His rationale, he explained, is that she made him want to be a better man. Hunt’s character is visibly taken aback, and declares it to be the best compliment she ever received.
I bring this up because the first time I listened to Game Theory’s Lolita Nation, it blew my mind in such a way that I began to seek out more music, expand my tastes and read as much as criticism as possible. It’s so good that it made me want to be a better writer so I would do a better job of describing what at the time I felt to be its impossible-to-define brilliance.
I don’t know if I’m there yet, but now’s the time to try, as the album is finally back in print thanks to the remarkable efforts of Omnivore Recordings, who have brought the album back to store shelves in both a deluxe 2CD package and a beautiful colored 2LP release as well. Continue reading
David Bowie passed away a month ago, but I still haven’t fully processed the news. It’s still hard to believe that he’s no longer with us. He was such a presence in the pop world. And his music meant more to me than anyone else’s.
And his death wasn’t just a shock and tragedy in the Western world. David Bowie was huge internationally, especially in Japan. Even before his death, it was hard to miss Bowie’s section in most record stores here, and even less well-regarded albums like Never Let Me Down or his output with Tin Machine seemed to be held in at least some esteem here. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a rare Bowie LP go for an insane amount of money at any of the multitude of record stores here in Tokyo.
In Japan, record stores have a bit more personality than their Western counterparts. Even in major chains, it’s not uncommon to see handwritten recommendation notes by the staff, and custom tailor-made displays dedicated to more obscure artists and genres. With Bowie’s passing, many of these same stores have taken to commemorating his legacy with similarly DIY, custom-made displays. In the days and weeks in the wake of Bowie’s death, I visited several Tower Records and other stores to see how they were handling the Starman’s passing. I was pretty impressed.
And now I know how to spell David Bowie in katakana – デヴィッド・ボウイ。
I feel that over the years I’ve gradually slid out of step with the mainstream when it comes to games. Whenever I glance over at “Best Of” lists at various gaming sites, I inevitably find a list of games that I either have no interest in playing or have played and didn’t like.
For example, I absolutely abhorred The Last Of Us. Bad controls, horrible story that’s been told a billion times over. Fallout? Hate it. Buggy mess. Ditto for The Elder Scrolls games (a Bethesda logo is a kiss of death to me). The original Dragon Age? Ugly, shitty characters, couldn’t make it for more than a few hours. The Batman Arkham games? Pretty vacant, with repetitive (and unresponsive) combat coupled with the pathetically heavy-handed writing. Dark Souls, Metal Gear (any of them), Undertale, The Witcher, The Walking Dead, I either hated them or couldn’t even be bothered to start them because they looked so boring, derivative or just not something I’d be into.
My point is that I am more than used to not being in jive with the critical consensus, and with rare exception I caulk it up to being an outlier. I hate a lot of popular games, but I realize that in many cases the issue is with me, not the game.
That being said, even I was surprised by the gulf between the critical consensus of and my personal views on The Witness, a game that many critics are lauding as one of the greatest of all time, and a game that I feel is a worthless exploration into just how little a game developer can care about his audience. Continue reading